Jan
14
2012

  Heat Sealing the Edges

I had never worked with ripstop nylon before creating the wind sock. I generally make home decor items (which usually involves upholstery fabric) or garments. Neither of which is a typical use for ripstop.

I read a little bit online about making wind socks before I started the project, and had come across some mention of "heat cutting" being the recommended way to cut the cloth. It involved something I imagine akin to a soldering iron with a hot tip that you draw across the fabric to "cut" it. I don't have one of those, so I didn't look into it.

However, after I had purchased the fabric, I did look up its info in my book "Fabric Savvy". It has tips for working with all kinds of fabrics, what types of sewing machine needles to use, pinning or cutting issues, etc. And in that book they stressed the importance of heat-sealing the edges immediately after they have been cut. Immediately. They made it sound like just being exposed to air would cause the edges to ravel, or something. So I took it seriously. Fortunately, they didn't mention anything about "hot cutting" or the use of esoteric tools, the book recommended sealing the edges in flame.

So immediately after I cut each of the pieces for the wind sock, I dutifully went into the laundry room where I'd set up a candle atop the ironing board table, and ran all the edges of each piece through the flame.

It wasn't all that difficult, but neither did I hold myself to a particularly high standard. There were places where the edges were burnt a bit irregularly, and a few scorch marks here and there. I just found myself wondering if I would have bothered with this in the past.

I did notice when I got my new sewing machine (several years ago now, sometime in my 30s) that I have much greater patience for the non-sewing parts of the craft. Pressing seams, finishing edges, changing needles, matching thread. I tried to think back to when exactly the turning point was in my personality. I'm pretty sure if I'd attempted the wind sock as a teenager, I would have completely disregarded the advice to heat-seal the edges and just dealt with the raveling during construction. I figured it would have been some point in my 20s that I would have first considered taking the extra time to improve the project. Although I'm not sure exactly when in my 20s. Probably sometime after age 25. If it was before then, I might have actually finished the giant bejeweled paper-mache alligator sculpture.

In retrospect, I found heat-sealing the edges of the cloth more convenient than other more traditional methods of finishing the raw edges of fabric. I might actually try making some of those little roll-up shopping bags now that I have experience working with ripstop. I have a little cloth left over, should be enough to make at least one.